Tuesday 23 January 2018

Reds still buzzing despite draw - Gerrard

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard insists renewed confidence at Anfield will not be damaged by Arsenal's fortuitous last-gasp equaliser in their Barclays Premier League opener.

The Reds were on course to open their domestic campaign with a win when Jose Reina allowed the ball to squirm from his grasp and into the net in injury time of a pulsating clash yesterday.

It was a deflating blow, but after a positive summer following the appointment of Roy Hodgson as manager, Gerrard says it will take a lot more to damage revitalised spirits.

"My family are Liverpool fans, we are surrounded by them day in and day out," said Gerrard, who also helped lift the club after last season's disappointing seventh-placed finish by pledging his future.

"Of course I can feel the optimism, and rightly so. We have got a good manager, we have kept hold of some top players and we have already got some top players here.

"If we can keep everyone fit I am very confident we can have a completely different season to last year. The boys are enjoying training and working very hard.

"There is a real buzz about the place and if we had got three points it would have been a magnificent start."

Liverpool's performance against Arsenal was all the more commendable after the dismissal of Joe Cole on the stroke of half-time.

The England midfielder had a home league debut to forget as he received a straight red card for a reckless lunge at Arsenal new boy Laurent Koscielny.

Liverpool responded well to go ahead through David Ngog's fourth goal of the campaign after three in Europa League qualifying, but Arsenal finished strongly and claimed a late reward.

Gerrard, 30, who scored twice for England in the friendly win over Hungary last week, said: "We were very unlucky not to see it out and take maximum points.

"I'm very proud of all the lads, I thought they put a tremendous shift in. When you are playing Arsenal in the opening game it is tough enough 11 v 11.

"To lose a man with a half to go and still get something out of the game, I'm really pleased. I thought they were disciplined and looked very fit.

"It was a shame we lost Joe. I think he was unfortunate, maybe a yellow would have been more sensible."

Gerrard also had consoling words for Reina, who denied Tomas Rosicky with a fine fingertip save just moments before his blunder.

"He is one of the best keepers in the world but he will certainly make that up over the course of the season," said Gerrard.

"He is worth a lot of points to the lads, there is no doubt about that. Further down the line we will be 1-0 up or 1-0 down and he will make that class save, that's what he does."

It proved an eventful afternoon for Arsenal's two debutants, Koscielny and Marouane Chamakh.

Koscielny, a £9.7m signing from Lorient, was carried off on a stretcher after Cole's controversial challenge, but returned for the second half.

The defender was later sent off himself in injury time for two bookable offences in quick succession.

French-born Morocco international Chamakh, a free transfer from Bordeaux, struggled to make an impression up front for most of the game but had a huge hand in the equaliser.

Chamakh got in ahead of Reina to meet Rosicky's cross and the ball rebounded off him, the post and the goalkeeper to earn Arsenal a point.

Manager Arsene Wenger was pleased with the contribution of both players.

Wenger said: "Chamakh showed by 'scoring' the goal he is not afraid to put his head and body in. I feel the two players who we bought have done well, I believe Chamakh and Koscielny had an impressive performance.

"We finished third last year and our ambition is to progress, to improve. We are quite solid as a team, our passing was still quite decent for the first game.

"We need a bit more penetration in the final third to take care of our possession. We are still a bit short defensively."

Press Association

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